Intel Atom Revenues Drop Thanks To Tablet Demand, AMD

Intel's overall revenues continue to be excellent, but the company's report was marred by the continuing slump of Atom sales. Intel's Atom business slumped 32 percent year on year, total revenue in that segment was just $269 million in the third quarter. Sales have reportedly taken a hit from the increasing popularity of tablets and by manufacturers turning to AMD. Digitimes reports that vendors have looked to Sunnyvale to boost sales as the company's APUs are cheaper and offer better performance. Other companies are bumping up netbook features and moving to 12" screens while keeping a $399 price point.

A quick check of Newegg implies that Intel doesn't have too much to worry about at this juncture. Of the 85 netbooks on sale, just seven of them use AMD's Brazos platform. Atom accounts for 76, there's a lone Celeron-M, and, oddly enough, a recertified netbook built around VIA's ARM-based VM8505. We should note, however, that it's getting awful hard to tell the difference between a netbook and a notebook at the $350-$450 price point. There are quite a few E-series systems that NewEgg classifies as notebooks but that sell for $300-$450. Thus far, AMD's Llano chips are holding on to higher margins and don't start popping up regularly until we hit the $499 range.

AMD's roadmap calls for new Brazos-class processors with a 15-20% performance increase
but the company hasn't indicated when they'll ship

We were curious to see how AMD fared against Intel in the wider notebook market, so we tallied up the number of systems that use AMD and Intel CPUs. NewEgg currently offers 87 AMD-based laptops. Of those 87, 54 of them are based on either Brazos or Llano, which suggests the company's mobile market share has continued to grow throughout the last quarter. Intel still commands the lion's share of the market, with over 400 design wins on store shelves, but AMD's 87 wins are ~18 percent of the total. While that doesn't mean that AMD has claimed anything like 18 percent of the market, it does indicate that the company's market share is growing.

Digitimes reports that despite the recent drops, analysts don't believe netbooks are going to dry up entirely. Instead, "sources believe netbooks will not disappear, but will rather enter emerging markets. The average price of a netbook is also likely to drop from US$300 currently to about US$200-250 with the share among total notebook shipments drops from 20% at the peak to less than 5% in the second half of 2012."

The site posulates that Intel may have delayed launching its Cedar Trail-M platform partly in response to weakening Atom sales. It's possible that the company delayed launching Cedar Trail-M to clear inventory of current Atom products. AMD's plans, meanwhile, are less than clear. Nearly a year ago we published a story claiming that TSMC would handle AMD's 28nm production, only to have both AMD and GlobalFoundries claim this wasn't true. Nevertheless, rumors continue to swirl that AMD has chosen to go with TSMC, not GlobalFoundries, at the 28nm node. AMD could technically be sourcing 28nm chips from both companies, but the difference between gate-first (GF) and gate-last (TSMC) technology means that Sunnyvale would've had to design and tape out two entirely different chips.

From AMD's perspective, any additional share of the mobile market is a bonus, even if it comes from a segment that's shrinking. The company's future plans are apparently somewhat up in the air--AMD has yet to confirm that its next-generation 28nm APUs to replace Ontario/Zacate (Kansas and Witchita) are on target for anything beyond 2012. Hopefully we'll learn more at the company's conference call next week.